Statement from the Chief Public Health Officer of Canada Update on Measles and Risk to Canadians


March 27, 2024 | Ottawa, ON | Public Health Agency of Canada

Canada is currently experiencing an increase in measles activity, with cases reported in four provinces in 2024. As of today, the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) is aware of 40 measles cases in Canada this year, which is already more than three times the number of cases reported in 2023. PHAC has received reports that seven of these people with measles required hospital care. The majority of measles cases in Canada are in people who are unvaccinated, most of whom are children. Some people with recent measles infections were exposed to measles while travelling internationally, while others were exposed in Canada.

I remain concerned that measles vaccination coverage among school-age children (for whom two doses of measles-containing vaccines are recommended) is not high enough in some parts of the country to protect against further spread of measles. Measles is highly contagious; 90% of people who are unvaccinated or not previously infected can become infected if they come into close contact with someone with measles. It is also important to understand that measles is more than a rash. Infection can lead to rare, but severe complications, including deafness and brain injury caused by inflammation of the brain, and can even be fatal.

Measles can be prevented through vaccination. I strongly advise parents and caregivers to ensure that children in their care have received all measles vaccines according to their provincial or territorial vaccination schedule. There is currently adequate supply of measles-containing vaccines in Canada for those who need a vaccine. If a child in your care has not received all recommended measles-containing vaccines for their age it is important to get them back on schedule. Talk to the child's health care provider or your local public health department about catching up on your child's missing vaccines.

PHAC recently undertook an assessment with provinces and territories and other partners to understand the potential risks and impact of measles in Canada. Risk assessments such as this one, support public health planning, responses and decision making to improve health outcomes for people living in Canada. The assessment concluded that there is a high likelihood of travellers infected with measles continuing to enter Canada. It is possible that infections spreading from these travellers could result in transmission in the community and outbreaks in educational settings, including child-care and pre-school, health care facilities, and un- or under-vaccinated communities. Measles infection is mainly a concern for un- or under-vaccinated persons who have not had previous infection. The risk of serious illness among those who become infected is highest in infants, children under the age of five, and persons who are immunocompromised, or pregnant.

People in Canada are at very low risk of catching measles if they have received two doses of a measles-containing vaccine, or if they have been infected with the measles virus in the past. Two doses of a measles-containing vaccine is almost 100% effective at preventing measles infection and is recommended in all provinces and territories for children, adolescents and some adults.

If you plan to travel outside of Canada, talk to a health care provider or local public health department preferably 6 weeks before travel to see if you need additional doses of a measles-containing vaccine.

If you believe you or your family may have been exposed to measles and have not been adequately vaccinated (or have not had a measles infection in the past), isolate and contact your health care provider or local public health department immediately for guidance. You should avoid travel and gatherings if you have symptoms of measles.

Initial symptoms of measles include fever, red watery eyes, runny nose, and cough followed by a red rash that starts on the face and then moves to the rest of the body. If you develop symptoms of measles, call a health care provider immediately. If you need to be seen in person, the health care provider can arrange to see you while preventing the spread to others.

No one should have to experience serious illness from a vaccine-preventable disease like measles. Help stop the spread of measles in Canada by ensuring you and your family receive recommended measles vaccines.


Media Relations
Public Health Agency of Canada

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